Night In Canada has been a national institution since
1952, when Foster Hewitt's familiar "Hello, Canada!"
ushered hockey fans into the era of television. It was
the greeting he had been using on the radio broadcast
of the same name since its first coast-to-coast coverage
of a 1933 contest between the Detroit Red Wings and
Toronto Maple Leafs, coming two years after the radio
broadcast of the opening game at the new Maple Leaf
Gardens on Carlton Street in downtown Toronto.
The initial Hockey Night In Canada TV broadcast came
several months after Hewitt called the play-by-play
for the first-ever televised game in Canada, a Memorial
Cup contest held at the Gardens in the spring of 1952
that was watched on close-circuit TV by a group of hockey
and broadcasting officials. For Hewitt, the game was
an opportunity to prove his contention that he could
employ the same style of play-by-play for television
that he had used on radio. He was right.
Although the early TV experiments were centered around
Maple Leaf Gardens, the first NHL game to be televised
on CBC was actually a game in Montreal on Oct. 11, 1952,
three weeks before Toronto's debut on Nov. 1. Imperial
Oil purchased the TV rights for that first season at
just $100 per Maple Leafs game, as team owner Conn Smythe
wanted to make sure that hockey was as appealing on
TV as it was on radio before asking for an appropriate
fee. The following season, Imperial purchased the rights
to the games for $150,000 a year in a three-year contract.
By the early 1960s, after Stafford Smythe had bought
out his father's controlling stock in the Gardens, the
rights sold for $9 million over six years, or about
$21,000 per game.
Among Hewitt's successors as host of Hockey Night In
Canada were Ward Cornell, Dave Hodge and Ron MacLean.
Hewitt's son, Bill Hewitt, would eventually become a
long-time play-by-play man, as did Hockey Hall of Famer
Danny Gallivan, who teamed with commentator Dick Irvin
in Montreal Canadiens broadcasts for many years. Bob
Cole eventually replaced Bill Hewitt, who left due to
the years, Hockey Night In Canada also began to use
former NHL players and coaches as game analysts, including
Bob Goldham, Howie Meeker, Gary Dornhoefer, John Davidson,
Greg Millen, John Garrett and the outspoken Don Cherry,
whose "Coach's Corner" intermission segment with Ron
MacLean became the highest-rated spot on Canadian television.